A current discussion – “Stop Feeling Sorry for American Veterans” – in the LinkedIn US Army group revolves around our reaction to those who served; the article that engendered the post is here and is an incredible read.
While it has become as common as a handshake upon meeting a veteran to add, “Thank you for your service”, I’ve wondered why this response has become de rigueur. I’ve concluded that it is a combination of guilt, sadness, uncertainty, pride, empathy, and compassion in proportions that change for every person. Yet I still don’t understand the “why?”; any thoughts?
My Dad is a WWII vet; saw his best bud hit with a mortar shell from about 10 yards away during the taking of a little hill in Italy. He was sent back from the line for about 3 days, given a few packs of cigarettes, and sent back up. Was begrudgingly diagnosed with PTSD decades later – if I recall, the “battle” took about two years and was obfuscated by the loss of veterans’ records courtesy of a little fire in St. Louis – and given extra vet benefits. After finally telling me about the events of that day on the hill, now I think I know why he “exploded” so often when I was young. He told me he was sorry; I told him I loved him even more than I already did.
I believe many who continue to say “Thank you for your service” don’t really understand what went on/goes on behind the scenes; perhaps for the long-term it might be better to simply ask if you can buy a vet a cup of coffee and spend the time getting to know what it was like for them. Listening is far better than a “Thank you for your service” followed by turning and walking away. It doesn’t make any sense to me to pay homage to a flag or watch veterans marching in a parade without getting to know the very same people who have served to ensure that you can do these.
As for me, I’ll continue to take my Dad to the Ft. Hamilton VA for is weekly Wednesday P/T and talk to any vet who cares to share their story. If you’re there, stop by in the canteen around 10 00 hours and say hi to a Dad and his son.
I’ll never ignore you.
[Next on the RecruitingInferno, my take on recruiting veterans]